Society hosts party for the people who keep Hampstead Heath so special
Heath conservationists recall the battles of the past - and pledge to keep up the fight
12 September, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Susan Rose and Jeremy Wright at last night’s (Wednesday’s) party
IT was 30 years ago that the London Residuary Body – a quango formed by Margaret Thatcher’s government to take on the assets of the scrapped Greater London Council – handed control of Hampstead Heath over to the City of London.
And yesterday (Wednesday) evening, members of the Heath and Hampstead Society hosted a party at the Parliament Hill Fields cricket ground to say thank you to City staff for their custodianship of the 800-acre common land.
Heath and Hampstead Society chairman Marc Hutchinson told the party, attended by more than 200 people connected to the open space, that when the City took on the Heath’s management it marked a centuries old relationship.
In Tudor times, City guilds and companies had been given the right to use water flowing from the Heath and had long held an interest in its preservation.
And he highlighted how for three decades the two bodies had worked hand-in-hand to protect the space and were currently fighting five simultaneous campaigns to stop unsightly and damaging developments on the edges of the Heath.
He said: “On the fringes of the Heath, the City and the Society fought a long, long battle, with many partners, to save Athlone House from ugly redevelopment. The challenges and proceedings went on for a full 18 years. They ended in the preservation of this fine house, which fits comfortably in the landscape around the Heath.”
Among the guests were lifeguards from the swimming ponds and the Lido – including now-retired head life guard Terry Turner.
He said: “It’s lovely to be back. I do miss the place – but not the 4am starts to get to work for the early swimmers.”
The party was entertained by renowned jazz guitarist John Etheridge and singer Vimala Rowe, who performed a specially written song celebrating the Heath.
Chairman of the City’s Heath Management Committee Karina Dostalova said: “We work closely with the Society. They have been incredibly supportive of our work to maintain the Heath as one London’s most iconic open spaces, and a sanctuary in the heart of our busy capital.
“The Society is actively involved in many of our projects, offering their views and counsel at our committees and most recently with our improvements to waste and recycling.”
“And by working closely, we continue to make sure that the Heath is protected for future generations to come.”